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TC3 budget hike denied

Cortland County legislators have decided to not provide Tompkins Cortland Community College with a 1 percent increase in the county’s contribution to the college.

The decisions was made during a special county Budget and Finance Committee meeting Thursday morning with a 3-4 vote against the proposed increase.

Legislators Linda Jones (R-Homer), Joseph Steinhoff (R-Cortlandville), George Wagner (R-Marathon, Lapeer) and Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville) voted against the 1 percent increase.

Legislature Chairman Donnell Boyden (R-Homer, Preble, Scott), who is not a part of the Budget and Finance Committee, said he was in favor of the increase, but because the vote did not result in a tie his vote did not count.

TC3 had asked its sponsor counties — Cortland and Tompkins counties — for the 1 percent increase. For Cortland that’s $16,741 more than this year’s $1.7 million contribution. And for Tompkins County it would have been an increase of $29,763.

Whatever one does the other must match. With Cortland County voting to not give the 1 percent increase, Tompkins County must do the same.

The counties’ contributions account for about 11.5 percent of TC3’s operating budget, about $40.9 million for 2017-18.

“It was expected,” TC3 Provost John Conners said about Cortland County not providing the 1 percent increase. The college will adjust its budget.

The reason the school asked for the increase is it is facing a $600,000 deficit this year and projects a $2 million deficit for the next academic year. Due to that, the college will lay off 19 employees.

With TC3’s budget being as tight as it is, Conners said it has had to dip into its reserve fund to help balance the budget. Now, it may have to dip even further into its reserves, although that has not been decided.

“We have to take as given what the sponsors are going to do,” Conners said.

TC3 President Carl Haynes stated last month it was a challenging budget year because TC3 had to deal with a $27,000 drop in state aid because of a drop in enrollment.

“The state is supposed to be paying a minimum of a third of our operating budget … and now the state’s providing 25 percent of our budget,” Haynes said then.

Cortland County is facing its own financial problems.

Last month, Whitney, who is also the Budget and Finance Committee chairman, said even the slightest increase is cost-prohibitive as the county enters its 2018 budget season facing a $2.5 million spending gap.

Legislator John Troy (D-Cortland), who voted in favor of the raise, along with legislators Sandra Price (D-Virgil, Harford) and Mary Ann Discenza (D-Cortland), said he was upset the majority was not considering the increase.

“They’re (TC3) running as efficiently as they can,” Troy said.

He added the county “throws away” more money than what TC3 is asking for, on studies that do not result in anything.

Cortland County initially rejected funding a 4 percent increase for TC3 two years ago, and later approved the increase by dividing it up between both savings in the college’s reserves fund and cash contributions from the county, Haynes said.

The Budget and Finance Committee will meet again June 15, its regularly scheduled meeting, where a new resolution to consider the 1 percent increase could be brought up again for a vote, if one of the committee members chooses.

Troy asked if that could be done in case a committee member has a change of heart by the next meeting.